Considerations for non-invasive in-flight monitoring of astronaut immune status with potential use of MEMS and NEMS devices

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The dynamics of how astronauts' immune systems respond to space flight have been studied extensively, but the complex process has not to date been thoroughly characterized, nor have the underlying principles of what causes the immune system to change in microgravity been fully determined. Statistically significant results regarding overall immunological effects in space have not yet been established due to the relatively limited amount of experimental data available, and are further complicated by the findings not showing systematically reproducible trends. Collecting in vivo data during flight without affecting the system being measured would increase understanding of the immune response process.

The aims of this paper are to briefly review the current knowledge regarding how the immune system is altered in space flight; to present a group of candidate biomarkers that could be useful for in-flight monitoring and give an overview of the current methods used to measure these markers; and finally, to further establish the need and usefulness of incorporating real-time analytical techniques for in-flight assessment of astronaut health, emphasizing the potential application of MEMS/NEMS devices.

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